How to Store Vegetables and Fruit to Keep It Fresh

A Guide to Storing Produce Inside (and Outside) the Refrigerator

October 16, 2020
Storing Vegetables

Not all produce should be stored in the refrigerator! Learn how to properly store different types of vegetables, fruit, and herbs so that they keep longer and stay fresher.

When it comes to storing fresh produce, there are three different combinations of conditions to know:

  • Cool and dry (50 to 60°F and 60% humidity), such as in an unheated basement.
  • Cold and dry (32 to 40°F and 65% humidity), such as in a refrigerator or an unheated garage. 
  • Cold and moist (32 to 40°F and 95% humidity), such as in a refrigerator (with a perforated plastic bag to provide the humidity) or in a root cellar.

Most produce keeps best in cold, moist conditions, which are easiest to maintain in a refrigerator. However, refrigerators also have a drying effect, so it’s often necessary to store produce in perforated bags or in the produce (crisper) drawer to increase relative humidity.

For the vegetables and fruit that store best in cool, dry conditions, a cool spot in your kitchen, mudroom, or basement is often perfect. Consult our produce-specific storage instructions below for more information!

Note: However you store your produce, always wash well before eating.

I. How to Store Vegetables

Let’s look at which vegetables should be stored A. in a refrigerator or root cellar or B. out of the refrigerator.

A. Vegetables to Keep in the Refrigerator or Root Cellar

Most produce stores best in cold, moist conditions, which makes the refrigerator the ideal place to keep it. Because refrigerators tend to dry things out, keep produce in the produce drawer or in perforated plastic bags to increase relative humidity. Root cellars are a great option for long-lasting root crops such as carrots or beets. 

  • Asparagus: Store asparagus by placing the spears upright in an open container (such as a drinking glass or a jar) that contains about an inch of water. Cover the asparagus loosely with a produce bag. It should keep for 10 to 14 days.
  • Beans (snap): Keep snap beans such as green beans in a perforated produce bag in the refrigerator and they should keep for about a week. Note that their condition will deteriorate faster if they are kept below 40°F.
  • Brussels sprouts: Store sprouts in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  • Broccoli: Store broccoli in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not wash it prior to putting it in the fridge, as this can encourage bacterial rot.
  • Cabbage: Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator in the produce drawer for up to 4 to 5 months.
  • Cauliflower: As with broccoli, store cauliflower in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash it prior to storage; it should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Radishes: Radishes keep well in cold conditions. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Carrots, Beets, Turnips, and Parsnips

Carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, and other root crops should either be stored in a root cellar (if you have one) or in a refrigerator properly.

  • Store small amounts in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag, where they will keep 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Store large amounts in a root cellar or another cool, dark, humid place. Brush the roots clean of any clinging garden soil. If tops are still attached, twist or cut them off one-half to one inch above the roots. Bury the roots in buckets of sand. Add a layer of slightly damp sand to either polyethylene bags with breathing holes or to the bottom of plastic containers such as 5-gallon plastic buckets. Then add a layer of carrots and more sand to the container. Storage temperatures should be just above freezing.

If you have an overabundance of beets, make homemade borscht, the classic beet soup, and freeze. To grate the beets more easily, cook them first. A little vinegar intensifies the color. Check out our tips for storing the beets that you don’t want to cook.

B. Vegetables to Keep Out of the Refrigerator

Some vegetables are susceptible to cold damage at temperatures below 40°F, which means that they are best stored outside of the fridge. If possible, keep them in a cool (55°F) part of the kitchen, pantry, or mudroom.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but will keep for longer in a cool spot in the kitchen. Keep them in a perforated plastic bag for 7 to 10 days.

Eggplant

Eggplant stores best outside of the refrigerator in a cool part of the kitchen. Under cold conditions, it may develop brown spots after more than a few days. Keep it in a perforated plastic bag for adequate humidity. Eggplant will keep for 7 to 10 days.

Onions, Garlic, and Shallots

Never put onions nor garlic (nor shallots) in the refrigerator. Store them in a dry, cool (40 to 50°F), ventilated place. It’s best to store them in mesh bags (which they often come in) to get that ventilation. If you can’t do this, put them in a bowl in your pantry. You may cover with a bag, but make sure there are plenty of ventilation holes.

  • Do not store onions near potatoes! They are not friends. Potatoes excrete moisture and speed up onion decay.
  • It’s fine to store scallions and green onions in the refrigerator. 
  • Another way to preserve garlic? Try making your own garlic powder!

Tip: Want to stop crying when you cut up an onion? Chill that onion for 30 minutes before peeling the outer layers. Avoid the root where it’s the most tear-inducing!

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Peppers

Bell peppers can be stored in perforated produce bags in a cool part of the kitchen. They will keep for 10 to 14 days.

Store hot peppers the old-fashioned way: by threading them on a string and hanging until dry. Peppers need to have good air circulation and not touch each other to dry properly.

Potatoes

Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar. Brush off any clinging soil, and store in a dark, cool place that is about 40°F (4.5°C). If possible, set up an area in the basement, in the coldest and darkest area, with plastic bins lined with a layer of damp sand.

  • Potatoes like it a bit warmer than other root crops, so store them higher up.
  • Don’t store potatoes with onions or apples; these crops give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes.

Learn more about preparing potatoes for the root cellar

Pumpkins and Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn)

Squashes don’t like to be quite as cool nor as humid as root crops do. Store squash in a place with a temperature of about 50° to 65°F.  Below 50°F, they are subject to chilling damage. Above 65°F, they become stringy. 

If you have a cool-ish bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well! Watch this video on how to cure and store pumpkins.

Summer Squash (Zucchini)

Zucchini and other summer squashes may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. For longer than that, store them in a cool part of the kitchen in a perforated plastic bag. They should keep for 10 to 14 days.

Tomatoes

Store in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. If tomatoes are green, layer in a shallow box, separating each tomato with paper and the tomatoes will ripen. At 55°F, they will take 25 to 28 days; at 65°F to 70°F, they will take 14 days.

Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes if you want to keep that fresh off-the-vine taste!

If you have an abundance of tomatoes:

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II. How to Store Fruit

A. Fruit to Keep in the Refrigerator

Apples

Store apples in refrigerator for the short term. It helps to have a fruit drawer and a damp paper towel nearby to increase humidity.

Never leave apples in a bowl on the counter if you want them to keep. Apples ripen about 4 times quicker at 50°F than at 32°F and become overripe very quickly at 70°F. 

Store apples in plastic bags placed in boxes at a temperature of 32°F. Apples keep well for about 6 months at temperatures between freezing and 45°F. If you don’t have a root cellar, a double cardboard box in a cool mudroom or cellar can approximate the conditions.

Remember to give apples an occasional change of air. Apple cider may be frozen after first pouring off a small amount for expansion.

Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)

Never rinse before storage. It washes off the thin, protective epidermal layer. Berries are highly perishable and don’t store for long.

If you must store them, place on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wash right before eating.

If you’d like to store them for longer, learn how to make berry jam or how to freeze berries.

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Citrus (Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons)

Citruses such as oranges, lemons, clementines, and grapefruit can be stored in the refrigerator in a perforated bag or the produce drawer.

Grapes

Grapes will keep for 2 to 3 weeks when kept in a perforated plastic bag (like the kind they’re typically bought in) in the refrigerator.

Pears

Unripe pears can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. In order to let them ripen and develop a better flavor and texture, move them out of the fridge a few days before you plan to eat them. Keep them in a paper bag or perforated plastic bag on the counter. 

Melons

Generally speaking, melons can be kept outside of the fridge if they have not yet been cut into. Once they’ve been sliced, store them in the refrigerator.

  • Muskmelons (Cantaloupe, Honeydew): Muskmelons can be stored whole in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. Wash them before storage to clean off any debris or bacteria, but let their rind dry before moving them to the fridge. Outside of the refrigerator, they can be kept in a cool part of the kitchen for a week or so.
  • Watermelons: Watermelons can be kept at room temperature for about a week. If possible, store them in temps between 50° and 60°F, which will extend their shelf life by another week or two. Once you’ve cut into the melon, store it in the refrigerator.

Stone Fruit (Peaches, Cherries, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums)

Store stone fruit in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. In cold, humid conditions, they’ll keep for 1 to 2 weeks. Be sure to check for blemishes or soft spots regularly, as moisture can lead to rot.

B. Fruit to Keep Out of the Refrigerator

Tropical Fruit (Bananas, Avocado, Pineapple)

Most tropical fruits do not keep well or keep their true flavor in the refrigerator or the cold. (They are tropical, after all!) If possible, store bananas, avocados, and pineapples at about 50°F outside the fridge.

III. How to Store Herbs

Dill and parsley will keep for about two weeks with stems immersed in a glass of water tented with a plastic bag. Most other herbs (and greens) will keep for short periods unwashed and refrigerated in tightly–sealed plastic bags with just enough moisture to prevent wilting. For longer storage, use moisture– and gas–permeable paper and cellophane. Plastic cuts off oxygen to the plants and promotes spoilage.

Read this blog about preserving herbs. Or, make yourself this herb butter, which stores and freezes well. To use up your leftovers, try out our favorite recipes using herbs.

Storing Fresh Herbs

Most fresh herbs go bad in the refrigerator quickly. Ever noticed how the leaves of basil or parsley turn brown?  These leafy herbs (including cilantro, mint, and dill) are best kept in a glass of cool water, like a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim the ends and change the water every couple of days. Just harvest (pinch leaves) as you need them! This encourages more growth. Herbs can also be dried, frozen, preserved in vinegar, oils and pesto (which should be kept refrigerated or frozen).

Some fresh woody herbs (rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, oregano) can be stored in a fridge, loosely wrapped in a damp paper town. 

Dried herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dry place, not above the stove or right next to the burners where heat and steam will cause them to lose flavor dramatically.

Other Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Rhubarb, petite peas, sweet corn, and diagonally sliced or French-cut green beans are easy to blanch and freeze—and still taste great when thawed.
  • Cucumbers, beets, cranberries, tomatoes, and virtually all fruits (especially peaches) are well-suited to canning, and their subsequent taste tends to be worth the added trouble. As folksinger Greg Brown put it, “Taste a little of the summer … Grandma’s put it all in jars.”
  • Find more tips for storing all your crops. For great ideas about using your extra fruits and vegetables, watch our video on crop storage.

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Reader Comments

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I put an apple in with my

I put an apple in with my potatoes to keep them from sprouting. The apple begins to shrivel but I haven't had any potatoes or apples to rot.

Field peas, purple hulls,

Field peas, purple hulls, black eyes, can be stored very well by shelling the peas (don't wash)and put in a pillow case. Tie top of case and put in freezer. Take out amount you need, wash and cook! Easy and quick to put up this way but I still can most of mine!

I can't keep garlic heads. I

I can't keep garlic heads. I purchase a few, put them in a colander with my onions on the counter top and the cloves dry inside and turn brown. I purchased a garlic keeper with holes. The same thing happens. What else can I do?

For fresh garlic, hang your

For fresh garlic, hang your bulbs in onion (net) bags, they will last longer in a barely cool room with lowish humidity. Like a basement, or my back porch.

That can get you through the 8 months or so between planting and scapes, with early garlic a few weeks later.

If it is a hardneck, it will have better taste and flavor, but only last a few months.

Softnecks, specifically a variety such as Incheleum Red or Polish White (Softneck) can still be usable (certainly better than what you might buy at the chain store) for 7-8 months. Some say longer.

You can also dehydrate and powder it, shake, shake, shake it on pizza or toasted, buttered French Bread Slices

You can google dehydrating, but here is a really GOOD tutorial I ran across (it's not mine) for a $1.50, and you can pay with pay pal. It really is good.

http://www.e-junkie.com/222218...

I'll give it a try!!

I'll give it a try!!

We have not had any luck

We have not had any luck storing carrots (cool, dry, dark places, burlap) they are like rubber by the second day after picking. Someone mentioned that we store them in sand? Any suggestions? we'd like to be able to enjoy some fresh rather than blanching, canning etc. Thanks !

I have had excellent results

I have had excellent results by storing my carrots in slightly damp sand. As soon as they are harvested, brush off as much garden soil as possible and cut off the tops, leaving about 1/4 inch. If your carrot bed is really dry, it won't hurt to gently wash the carrots. Add a layer of just slightly damp sand to the bottom of a plastic container (I used clean 5 gal. plastic buckets with tight fitting lids). Add a layer of carrots, cover with more sand,then more carrots until the bucket is full. Snap on the lid and store in a cool place, just make sure the temp. does not drop below freezing. When you want fresh carrots, dig a few out of the sand. They will be fresh and crisp, just like when harvested. By the end of winter, the remaining carrots may have sprouted little hair like roots and some may start to put up leaves. They are still good, just scrub or peel and enjoy. This method also keeps out mice if you are using a root cellar.

I havent any word to

I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us.

Nicholas, all you need do to

Nicholas, all you need do to dry okra is just hang it upside down in your garage. I usually band about 3 pods together with string and thumbtack it to the wall. You can also leave it on the vine and it will dry satisfactorally but will cause the plant to stop bearing. Just be sure to get it in before the first killing frost.

I am trying to dry okra to

I am trying to dry okra to use for decorations eg to add to a garland. I don't have a dehydrator; does anybody have any tips to help me in this venture...!
Nick
hillnik@verizon.net

Nick, try sun drying. there

Nick, try sun drying. there is plenty of methods on the web (google it)